Bruce Lee's Personal Fighting System The Jun Fan Martial Arts
By Blaise Loong
From BLACK BELT MAGAZINE Sept. 1987

The centuries-old history of martial arts shook in recent years when Lee Jun Fan (AKA Bruce Lee) exploded onto the scene. With him came revelation, innovation and extraordinary dedication --- the fruition of which has since become known as the Jun Fan martial arts.

Double end bag When asked for a quick definition of what the Jun Fan martial arts are, Bruce Lee protégé, Dan Inosanto, states matter-of-factly that they are merely "Bruce Lee's personal fighting movements." The Jun Fan martial arts are a cohesive and integrated methodology of fighting skills and training procedures developed by Lee, based in part on his excruciatingly detailed research of the world's combat arts, but predominately on his own genius for adapting, modifying and creating. Coupled with Lee's jeet kune do concepts, the Jun Fan martial arts stand firmly as one of today's most formidable and well-rounded fighting methods.

There are only a handful of truly authorized instructors of the Jun Fan martial arts (this was in 1987), and consequently, very few individuals who know exactly what training in the Jun Fan arts entails. Fewer still actually comprehend the "spirit" of the Jun Fan martial arts --- the jeet kune do concepts. Developing these concepts takes years of hard training (not just physically, but with a "total" self) under someone who went through a similar program of instruction.

The jeet kune do concepts quite simply cannot be passed on en masse; ideally, they are learned via a close one-on-one student-teacher relationship. Bruce Lee's life was an ongoing act of self-discovery. To accomplish so much with so little outside guidance is a monument to Lee's true understanding of himself and his potential. Lee's disciples absorbed from him the concepts of discerning and applying martial arts on a personalized, yet universal, level. Inosanto, one of the most prominent and active of these disciples, has in turn spent years imparting this ideology to his students. Yet some students never pick up the concept of jeet kune do. As Lee often said, "Either you understand or you don't, and that is that!"

Jeet kune do cannot be defined as a particular style of martial art, Lee's or anybody else's. The Jun Fan martial arts, by definition, can be, however --- but only to a certain extent. Lee had a very distinct way of fighting and training. He had clear ideas on how to utilize his body as a weapon, based on his personal attributes and abilities. The Jun Fan style, as a 'system', has specific progressions and training methods, unique completely unto itself, which are geared towards developing and honing a person's fighting capacity.

It must be clarified most emphatically that the goal of the Jun Fan martial arts is not to produce Bruce Lee clones. Far from it. It would be foolish to even try. No one to date has come close to replicating all of the skills and moves Lee had, let alone his overall insights regarding the martial arts. One must find his own way. "Your truth is not my truth, and my truth is not yours," Lee often said.

The training methods Jun Fan stylists use provides them with a systematic approach with which to develop the myriad of attributes and qualities necessary to be an effective, well-rounded martial artist. Such things as distance, timing, rhythm, speed, coordination, footwork, power, and endurance are learned abilities, and the Jun Fan style presents direct paths to perfect them to the highest degree possible. Again, it all comes back to the jeet kune do concepts and how important and integral they are in relationship to the Jun Fan martial arts. Without the jeet kune do elements, the Jun Fan system is not complete.

Mook Jong The Jun Fan Arts have at least four (4) distinctive, yet interrelated segments (with gray areas in between for other categories, let there be no doubt). Just as you can't wrap water in paper and then try to shape it, you can't truly define fighting. Lee studied and had a high regard for wing chun gung-fu. Seeing limitations by remaining strictly a wing chun stylist, he ventured out of its realm. With his personal jeet kune do, Lee's wing chun became transfigured. There are certain constants essential to wing chun, of course, but the manner in which Lee applied specific elements, and the way he later trained with them, are his innovations. As he grew to understand different ranges, timings, and fighting technologies, his novel approach in applying wing chun --- his modified wing chun --- greatly improved its combative effectiveness for him. Thus, there is a Lee Jun Fan Method of wing chun. Nonetheless, Lee always gave credit to wing chun and to his instructors, regardless of his personal modifications.

It seems there are about as many styles of gung-fu as there are people in China, and Lee either saw or trained a little in about 99% of them, or so it would seem. As a youth, Lee often compared or swapped techniques with other kids who were studying the countless gung-fu styles available in Hong Kong. Even as an adult he continued to analyze bits and pieces of certain systems. One should always have an open mind and remain willing to learn no matter what rank one has attained in martial art.

Chi Sau In conjunction with Lee's own form of wing chun, the Jun Fan martial arts contain Chinese boxing methods as compiled by Lee. The long-range kicking skills of the northern Chinese styles, as well as the short-range hand techniques of the southern Chinese styles, are all integrated and blended to form an efficient and effective way of fighting. It has often been said Lee lacked the ability or the interest in above-the-waist kicking prior to meeting various kick-oriented tournament competitors during the mid and late 1960s. This is completely untrue. Those who claim credit for Lee's great kicking prowess fail to account for still photographs taken during the late 1950s that show him kicking at high levels, or those from his kicking set at the 1964 Long Beach Internationals (it's on videotape), which he later duplicated in part for the film "Enter The Dragon".

One of the greatest impacts Lee had on modern martial arts was full-contact training. In ancient times, when a warrior's life depended on his martial skills, the workouts he participated in were probably grueling, dangerous, and definitely full contact. As time and warfare progressed, an individual's empty-hand fighting skills became less practical. "Gun-fu" has made many traditional fighting forms obsolete. In modern times, it seemed as if a majority of martial arts became engrossed with preserving movements as opposed to actions. Lee, being at heart a fighter, wanted to perfect his fighting abilities. Subsequently, Jun Fan kickboxing was born.

Clearly, it is impossible to study in detail every martial art, but if one can acquire the essence of a style, he can capture that style. Armed with the essence of muay Thai, bando, savate, and other kickboxing styles which included at least some form of full contact, Lee created for himself his own brand of kickboxing. He incorporated modern technology (training apparatuses, dietary supplements, etc.) with a fluid understanding of ranges, and the result differed radically from traditional kickboxing forms of his time. Lee realized that the actual physical execution of techniques varied drastically from when he worked with a compliant partner in a gym to when he faced a hostile opponent in the street --- hence another factor influencing him to use full-contact training. Using equipment created feedback with which he could hone and also gauge the effectiveness of his kicks, punches, and other strikes. However, focus gloves don't hit back (just the feeder). A free, full-contact "fight" or "spar" allowed him to apply all of those skills and qualities he had worked on in a dynamic and flowing environment.

Added to the segments of the Jun Fan martial arts already discussed is one other: Western boxing methods (as compiled by Lee). It follows that if there are Chinese boxing methods, there are Western boxing methods. Plus, what better complement to Lee's kickboxing than his personal application of the hands of Greco-Roman boxing?

Focus Glove Obviously, Jun Fan kickboxing is by no means a complete way of fighting. The simple act of putting on gloves and other protective gear dictates semantic differences from a real, bare-fisted, no-holds-barred fight. It isn't advisable to try bobbing and weaving too often with a seasoned street fighter; you might catch a knee in the face. And 'rope-a-dope' tactics may prove disastrous. However, a Jun Fan full-contact sparring session develops in students a better sense of distance, timing, and rhythm --- key elements of any type of combat. These students gain a better feel for application --- how and when to use their offensive, defensive, or counter-offensive skills. But most of all, it imparts to the participants the experience of a full-contact encounter. It can build a person's inner character and confidence if properly conducted.

Critics are quick to say that the Jun Fan style is ineffective in the street for everybody but Lee. This is ludicrous. A fighting method is only as good as the individual applying it. A reverse punch in the face is just as undesirable as is a right cross. A muay Thai round kick, a savate chasse, or a Jun Fan jeet tek, when all are properly executed, produce the same result: a broken leg. Judge the man, not the style. You can give the Los Angeles Raiders' playbook to the worst high school football team in the country, and if that team's record remains 0-12, does that mean the Raiders' plays are no good?

Sparring Then there is the belief held by some that Jun Fan/jeet kune do [term used by the jkd nucleus currently, Loong was first to use in print & not in a political connotation] instructors and students are not capable of the type of hard-core training used by professional boxers, Thai boxers or savate fighters. One must first look at the goals of those who are training. A middle-aged businessman who makes his living in an office would be unwise to attempt such a workout schedule if he intends to remain healthy and employed. A young, motivated man who wants to be a champion above all else will gladly undertake the harsh training. Commercially, it isn't a sound buiness practice to work one's students to death without their compliance and desire. Yet there are definitely small groups of dedicated Jun Fan/jeet kune do practitioners who conduct hard-core training privately in garages and backyards, just as Lee himself did..

The Jun Fan martial arts boil down to Bruce Lee expressing himself as a martial artist. To view the Jun Fan arts as just a hodgepodge conglomeration of a thousand styles of fighting is to completely miss the point. The Jun Fan system cannot in any way be looked at separately from the jeet kune do concepts. Just as a man without a soul is no longer a man, so it is with the Jun Fan arts and jeet kune do. Which goes right back to the problem of figuring out exactly what jeet kune do is.

Unfortunately, either you understand or you don't, and that is that!